Welcome to another Committee Meetings Week in City of Appleton government, Neighbors. There are quite a few action items to discuss this week so buckle up and let’s get right to it!
Municipal Services Committee – 4:30pm Boldt Company is asking for a street occupancy permit until the end of this year to close Oneida Street south of Washington Street during construction on the Fox Commons (City Center Plaza). I’m expecting little argument against this. However, the city’s Finance Department uses Oneida Street as access to the drive-up windows for Appleton property owners to drop off property tax payments and other utility payments. So this could be an issue unless there’s an alternate solution to this temporary closure. I hope to hear more about this in the committee meeting as this is my biggest concern — impact on the average taxpayer in Appleton at a critical property tax payment time of the year.
Finance Committee – 5:30pm Due to some “poor soil conditions” in the city’s redundant raw water line project, there is a request of this committee to allow a $200,000 increase in the cost of the project (reducing the contingency on the project by $200,000). The other action item on the agenda is discussion and potential approval of a resolution on which I am a co-author. It affirms the state guidelines for the city’s new portion of revenue sharing from the state budget — the funds are only to be used for certain types of expenses including public safety and infrastructure. It also asks the mayor to provide the common council members with a detailed accounting of his proposed use of said funds. The most important thing it does is require the mayor not to use these funds for expenses that will be required into the future (like salary increases that would have to be honored into the future). The reason we authors ask this is because the amount of this additional revenue sharing from the state will vary year-to-year. As such, the city should not make budget promises that might not be able to be kept with these funds in future years. I suspect that the mayor might take issue with this resolution as he may think that it handcuffs him a bit. However, I see it as a failsafe and way in which members of the council can be assured that there will be a good accounting of the use of these funds, that the mayor’s budget won’t use this year’s extra revenue sharing funds to create new ongoing expenses for the city which may not be supported by future years’ additional revenue sharing. What are your thoughts?
Parks and Recreation Committee – 6:15pm This meeting has been cancelled due to lack of agenda items.
Joint Review Board (Outagamie County) – 1pm This board is meeting only to review the 2022 annual reports for all of the Tax Incremental Financing Districts in the Outagamie County portion of the City of Appleton.
Fox Cities Transit Commission – 2:50pm Commissioners will look to approve payments from July 2023 and an authorization to purchase about a quarter-million dollars-worth of office furniture for the new Whitman Avenue transit facilities. The memo detailing the latter request does not state what the City of Appleton portion of the proposed furniture purchase will be but… holy cats! A quarter million dollars of furniture is a lot! What are your thoughts on this expense?
Utilities Committee – 4:30pm For a District 13 project — the Lightning Drive extension north — the Department of Public Works (DPW) is asking for an additional $27,500 for consulting services related to the final design of the street extension. I do hope that this gets approval as that extension will grow the city to the north significantly.
Board of Health – Bright-and-Early 7am First thing in the morning, these board members will be asked to consider a resolution regarding mental health awareness. While I appreciate the sentiment of this resolution, it is yet another no-action resolution which requires “awareness” but no substantive action on the part of the city staff, citizens, government officials, etc. If this is approved, I will likely vote “no” on this resolution — not because of the sentiment but because this is not useful in the governance of the city. Board members will also look to review and approve new municipal code language to allow for temporary tattoo and body piercing establishments in the city (which aligns with state law) and some changes regarding some municipal code clauses regarding manufactured and mobile homes. Please let me know if you have any questions on the proposed changes. It seems as though the changes are largely logical and/or state-law-complying. The board will then be asked to approve new Health Department policy change documents which are “to manage operational policies including those related to equity.”
Appleton Redevelopment Authority – 9am This meeting has been cancelled due to lack of agenda items.
Joint Review Board (Winnebago County) – 1pm This board is meeting only to review the 2022 annual reports for all of the Tax Incremental Financing Districts in the Winnebago County portion of the City of Appleton.
City Plan Commission – 3:30pm Commissioners should be prepared for a long meeting as their agenda includes new items and a refer-back of a previous item which happens to be contentious for some neighbors. The less contentious new items include potential approvals of 1) a special use permit for a restaurant with alcohol sales in a suite of a West College Avenue establishment, 2) the rezoning (from “planned development” to “single-family residential”) of a small plat owned by St Elizabeth’s Hospital, 3) text amendments to the city’s zoning code, and 4) revisions of the Downtown Appleton Business Improvement 2024 Operating Plan.
The item likely to provoke the most discussion is the referred-back rezoning of land in the Clearwater Creek subdivision and the corresponding preliminary plat for that land (the 4th addition to the subdivision). I mentioned this here. Commissioners have already approved the rezoning and the plat map and sent their approval to the full council; but many neighbors in this subdivision are miffed that they do not yet have a park in this subdivision and would therefore like this plat of land to become parkland instead of more single-family home lots. While they might desire this, there is nothing that the city can legally do to preclude the owner of this land (the developer of this subdivision) from using the land in a legal manner. The developer has chosen to enlarge the subdivision and paid a “fee in lieu of parkland dedication” as is legal per city code. Neighbors are also concerned about roadway access to their subdivision. But my sense is that nothing that the developer has done in this subdivision thus far is illegal or not following city code/rules. I look forward to hearing how the commissioners “re-debate” these items. I feel empathy for the neighbors of this subdivision. However, there is little that can be done to stop a private property owner from legally doing what is allowed by city code — at least not without legal challenge by the property owner.
Human Resources and Information Technology Committee – 4:30pm This meeting has been cancelled due to lack of agenda items.
Safety and Licensing Committee – 5:30pm This committee will begin with a consideration of increased fees for city-issued liquor license and other fees. (Please see this memo for more information.) The Appleton Fire Department (AFD) is also asking this committee to approve some code language changes and an increased fee schedule for false alarm fees and fire protection plan reviews. (See here for further explanation.) Of course, the city must keep up with changes to these rates in neighboring municipalities so I see little issue with these proposed increases (except that, sadly, everything seems to be on the increase these days). The city clerk will also give an update on the increasingly limited liquor licenses in the city (due to state “quota” laws in place since the 1990s) at this meeting.
Community and Economic Development Committee – 6:30pm This committee will finally be discussing the resolution (and the added staff memos) regarding requiring “bird-safe glass” in buildings in the city. This was mentioned here before the resolution was held in committee because the resolution authors did not show up at the first scheduled committee meeting to present/discuss it. My thoughts on this are the same as they were when this resolution first came to this committee’s table: I believe that there are far too many issues (including pending legal challenges to this same sort of legislation in other cities) and questions (like “what evidence is there that buildings in the city are inordinately unsafe for avian life?”) with this resolution and I intend to vote “no” when this comes to full council review. How do you feel about this potential local legislation?
So as you can see, we are back in full swing with action items in committee meetings (after the summer and fifth-week lulls). If you have any questions, feedback, or concerns regarding anything mentioned above or any other city-government-related concern, please get in touch. I look forward to hearing from you!
Until we “meet” here again next week… I wish you all the best!